Spawner Functions

A spawner is an animation effect that ultimately causes a new actor to be created in the game world. Spawners are represented as upside-down sprites that rise from an origin position until either a timer expires or they hit a solid map tile, at which point a true actor of the same type is created in that spot. The actor then falls back to the ground using its own sense of gravity.

The most common spawners the player interacts with are the prizes released from Flying Roamer Slugs and destroyed barrels/baskets. The prize cannot be “grabbed” during the time when it is a spawner; the spawner must complete its lifecycle and become a true actor first. Similar limitations are in place for things like Blue Ball/Parachute Creatures spawned from Tulip Launcher Plants – these do not truly become living actors until each spawner finishes its work.

Spawner Behavior

Spawners are created by using the NewSpawner() function, passing a numeric actor type and an X/Y coordinate to start the animation from. The spawn animation begins at that position and moves up on the screen by two tiles during each frame of gameplay until it reaches the point 16 tiles above the starting position. At that time, the vertical speed slows to one tile per frame, and the spawner continues rising for an additional three tiles. If the spawner hits any north-blocking map tile before reaching its full height, the spawn animation ends early.

At the point where the animation ends, the spawner is removed and an actor of the same type is created in the same spot. This actor should be one that experiences gravity, so it can fall back to the point where the spawner first started.

The spawner always uses frame zero from the sprite data, and passes the actor type unmodified into the sprite drawing functions. This means that the actor type number and the sprite type number should be the same (or use the same image data), and that frame zero of that sprite should be a reasonable representation of the actor that will be created. The sprite is drawn upside-down while spawning, then in a normal orientation while falling.

Spawner Sources

The full list of game elements that can produce spawners is:

  • Tulip Launcher Plants spawn Blue Ball/Parachute Creatures.
  • The harder Boss (from episode three) spawns Blue Ball/Parachute Creatures periodically.
  • The Flying Roamer Slugs release a random choice of Gourd, Red Tomato, Transparent Diamond, or Green Emerald each time one touches the player.
  • Each Eye Plant spawns an Idle Bomb when bombed.
  • The Satellite spawns a Hamburger when destroyed.
  • Frozen Duke spawns a Hamburger after the player rescues him.
  • When destroyed, each barrel and basket releases its prize using the spawner system.


The InitializeSpawners() function clears all of the memory slots used to store spawner state, immediately terminating all incomplete spawner animations and making each slot available for use.

void InitializeSpawners(void)
    word i;

    for (i = 0; i < numSpawners; i++) {
        spawners[i].actor = ACT_BASKET_NULL;

The numSpawners variable always holds the value from the constant MAX_SPAWNERS, which is 6 regardless of the episode, level, or state of the current map. In the outermost for loop, i increments from zero to five, covering every spawner slot.

The spawners[] array maintains a list of Spawner structures, each one having an actor member variable. Spawners use the actor variable to select which sprite to draw and to know which actor to ultimately create at the end. Idle spawners are expressed by having an actor of ACT_BASKET_NULL – essentially zero, which is assigned to the spawner slot on each iteration.

Note: ACT_BASKET_NULL is not an actor that should ever be present in a map or created dynamically during the game. It is a sentinel value that acts weird if actually created. See the unused actors page.

At completion, all spawners will be reset to their idle state, ready to be activated at some future time.


The NewSpawner() function creates a new instance of a spawner at the passed x_origin and y_origin map tile coordinates and sets the animation up to run. actor_type controls both the type of actor that will be created when the spawner completes, and the sprite type that will be drawn while the spawner is running.

Note: If there is no room in the spawners[] array (due to too many spawners already running) this function does nothing.

As with all sprite-related functions, the X/Y origin tile is the bottom-left tile of the sprite image.

void NewSpawner(word actor_type, word x_origin, word y_origin)
    word i;

    for (i = 0; i < numSpawners; i++) {
        Spawner *sp = spawners + i;

The for loop iterates over every spawner slot in memory, up to the fixed limit in numSpawners. On each iteration, one Spawner structure is loaded from the spawners[] array into sp. With that done, the i iterator isn’t needed again until the loop repeats.

        if (sp->actor != ACT_BASKET_NULL) continue;

Spawners use the impossible actor value ACT_BASKET_NULL to represent a spawner slot that is not in active use. If the current slot has any other actor value, we don’t want to overwrite that. continue to the next slot and try again.

        sp->actor = actor_type;
        sp->x = x_origin;
        sp->y = y_origin;
        sp->age = 0;


Otherwise, the current slot holds no active spawner, so we can use it to hold a new one. The caller-provided actor_type, x_origin, and y_origin are saved in sp’s actor, x, and y members, and the spawner’s age is set to zero to prepare it to run a complete animation cycle.

With the new spawner created, no further slots need to be examined and the outer for loop ends with break.

If the for loop runs to exhaustion without finding a suitable slot for the new spawner, this function silently returns without modifying anything.


The MoveAndDrawSpawners() function moves and draws the sprites for all spawners that are currently active. When a spawner animation ends (either due to finishing the animation or hitting a solid map tile) its slot is marked inactive and a new actor is created in the spawner’s final position.

void MoveAndDrawSpawners(void)
    word i;

    for (i = 0; i < numSpawners; i++) {
        Spawner *sp = spawners + i;

The for loop iterates over every spawner slot in memory, up to the fixed limit in numSpawners. On each iteration, one Spawner structure is loaded from the spawners[] array into sp. With that done, the i iterator isn’t needed again until the loop repeats.

        if (sp->actor == ACT_BASKET_NULL) continue;


Spawners use the impossible actor value ACT_BASKET_NULL to represent a spawner slot that is not in active use. If the current slot matches that value, there is no active spawner in the current slot. continue to the next one and try again.

Otherwise, the spawner’s age is unconditionally incremented. This occurs once per frame (or tick) of gameplay.

        if (
                DIR4_NORTH, sp->actor, 0, sp->x, --sp->y
            ) != MOVE_FREE ||
                sp->age < 9 &&
                    DIR4_NORTH, sp->actor, 0, sp->x, --sp->y
                ) != MOVE_FREE
        ) {
            NewActor(sp->actor, sp->x, sp->y + 1);
            DrawSprite(sp->actor, 0, sp->x, sp->y + 1, DRAW_MODE_NORMAL);
            sp->actor = ACT_BASKET_NULL;

There’s a lot going on in the if’s test expression that has some subtle behaviors. In a certain light, there is an elegance to it.

First and foremost, there is a pre-decrement --sp->y inside the arguments in the first call to TestSpriteMove. That always runs no matter what the test results are, which moves the spawner one tile up on the screen. TestSpriteMove is being asked if sprite type sp->actor, frame zero, at the new X/Y position was permitted to move up (DIR4_NORTH) into that tile’s space. If the call returns anything other than MOVE_FREE, the spawner has entered the ceiling by moving into this position. When this happens, the if test short-circuits and the remaining code after the logical OR “||” does not execute. It instead jumps straight into the if branch’s body.

On the other hand, if the first Y decrement didn’t enter the ceiling we get to do the rest of the tests. If the spawner’s age is nine or above, the code short-circuits again and the if body is skipped. Conversely, when age is less than nine, there is another pre-decrement --sp->y inside another TestSpriteMove which works identically to the one that was just done. This moves the spawner up on the screen another tile, with an associated check for entering the ceiling.

The end result: When age is between one and eight, the spawner moves up two tiles each tick. When age is nine or above, the spawner moves up only one tile per tick. Every tile position is checked, and the if body here executes any time the ceiling is breached. The if’s test expression always moves the spawner, even when its branch isn’t taken.

With the ceiling hit, the spawner’s life is over and it’s time to bring in an actor to replace it. NewActor is called with the spawner’s actor, x, and y + 1 values. The Y value needs the correction by one because the spawner is currently at least partially inside the ceiling – that’s how we got into this if body. Adding one backs it up to the point where it wasn’t intersecting the map.

The new actor now exists, but won’t get drawn until the next tick of the game loop. To bridge that gap, one final DrawSprite() call draws the spawner sprite in the same position where the actor was created – with Y adjusted by one for the same reason. This is drawn right-side up (DRAW_MODE_NORMAL).

To finally clean up the spawner, sp->actor is set to ACT_BASKET_NULL to mark the spawner slot as no longer in use.

        } else if (sp->age == 11) {
            NewActor(sp->actor, sp->x, sp->y);
            DrawSprite(sp->actor, 0, sp->x, sp->y, DRAW_MODE_FLIPPED);
            sp->actor = ACT_BASKET_NULL;

The else if here is evaluated in cases where the spawner did not move into any of the ceilings. This simply checks for the case where the spawner has reached its maximum age by running for 11 ticks. If that has happened, the spawner is replaced with an actor in a manner quite similar to the previous branch. The difference here is that Y is not corrected by one, because we do not need to unwind an errant move inside a ceiling.

The sprite here also uses DRAW_MODE_FLIPPED to draw upside-down, which feels perhaps like a small visual inconsistency relative to the previous branch.

        } else {
            DrawSprite(sp->actor, 0, sp->x, sp->y, DRAW_MODE_FLIPPED);

The remaining else case is a catch-all. The spawner did not hit any ceilings, and it is not old enough to age out, so the only thing to do is draw it at the current location. DrawSprite() does this in the DRAW_MODE_FLIPPED style.

The enclosing for loop repeats until all spawner slots have been examined, then this function returns.